A Snark article in the Knight Letter
(with lots of help from the editors Chris Morgan and Mark Burstein)
Source: Knight Letter (ISSN 0193-886X), Fall 2017, Number 99
When I wrote this article, I failed to mention that already in 1973 Elizabeth Sewell pointed out in The Field of Nonsense that a line in Carroll’s poem has a similarity to a line in a limerick by Edward Lear (MG058). I am sorry for not having mentioned that.
I posted my article online with permission of the Knight Letter editors. In the online copy, I fixed the wrong URL kl.snr.de. It’s kl.snrk.de. Furthermore, four additional images have been attached to my online version.
2018-02-09, update: 2018-12-30: Reference to Elizabeth Sewell
2018-12-30, updated: 2022-08-01
See also: http://www.chinchin-records.com/bajka—in-wonderland
If you get the complete album, then you also have the original poem being sung to you.
2017-09-13, update: 2018-10-11
The drawing depicts Dante Gabriel Rossetti lamenting the death of his second wombat. Mary Hibbs (pen names: Mary Hammond and Sandra Mann) made me aware of the image and of the possibility that the Beaver in Lewis Carroll’s The Hunting of the Snark could have been a reference to Rossetti’s wombat.
The fame of Rossetti’s Wombat is lasting much longer than that poor animal itself, after having been transported for its short life from Australia to Chelsea. But there also was a “Canadian marmot or woodchuck” in Rosetti’s estate in Chelsea, where he moved into the Tudor House in 1862. Actually, Rosetty had two wombats. We also learned from Angus Trumble (Rossetti’s Wombat: A Pre-Raphaelite Obsession in Victorian England, 2003-04-16) that Rosetti had a little zoo in his garden aas well as friends living in his big house like the “deeply unattractive poet and semi-professional sadomasochist Algernon Charles Swinburne — who liked to slide naked down the banisters giest”. I guess that Rosetti’s mini-zoo was kept not even semi-professionally, but together with his friends and his dormouse, Rosetti surely was well prepared for mad tea parties. (See also: G.A.H.! (Gardner’s Annotations Hyperlinked) – The Dormouse and Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s Wombat, LCNSA.)
In The Hunting of the Snark, the Beaver was the Bellman‘s pet and became the Butcher‘s friend. Can anything from the real world be associated with that Beaver-Bellman-Butcher triple? This might expand my Snark matrix, a matrix with elements from The Hunting of the Snark in its rows and elements from the real world in its columns.
001 “Just the place for a Snark!” the Bellman cried,
002 As he landed his crew with care;
003 Supporting each man on the top of the tide
004 By a finger entwined in his hair.
Henry Holiday interpreted “his hair” as the Banker’s hair, not as the Bellman’s hair. Among those who commented on The Hunting on the Snark, that also seems to be the the common understanding of the ambiguously used pronoun “his”. However, if the hair would be the Bellman’s hair, what kind of finger would have been used to support the Banker?
more about the Bellman
At this moment the King, who had been for some time busily writing in his note-book, cackled out ‘Silence!’ and read out from his book, ‘Rule Forty-two. ALL PERSONS MORE THAN A MILE HIGH TO LEAVE THE COURT.’ Everybody looked at Alice.
‘I’m not a mile high,’ said Alice.
‘You are,’ said the King.
‘Nearly two miles high,’ added the Queen.
‘Well, I shan’t go, at any rate,’ said Alice: `besides, that’s not a regular rule: you invented it just now.’
‘It’s the oldest rule in the book,’ said the King.
‘Then it ought to be Number One,’ said Alice.
Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland, chapter XII
In the 1952 German dubbed version of Disney’s 1951 Alice movie, “Rule 42” had been replaced by “Paragraph 51”. Nobody can really know what “42” stands for, but in Germany “he has the article 51” (“Er hat den Paragraph 51“) meant “He is mad”. It was until the year 1975 that the article 51 of the German penal code provided the legal base for insanity defense.
Lewis Carroll’s “Rule 42” might not have been plain nonsense.
“What I tell you three times is true” is the most frequently quoted line from The Hunting of the Snark. Besides that, the lyrics of this album by the “alternative metal band Fair to Midland“ doesn’t take any references to Lewis Carroll’s ballad. But already today I listened to it more than three times.
Sadly, the band met the Boojum in 2013.
Why Donald Trump Can’t Kill the Truth, by Errol Morris, TIME, 2018-05-22:
[…] What is so scary about the present time is that people believe that they can assert truth just by screaming louder than others or repeating themselves endlessly, like the Bellman in Lewis Carroll’s “The Hunting of the Snark”: “What I tell you three times is true.” […]
In my view, tweaking the truth is nothing new. But the ability to tweet the tweaked truth within a few seconds to millions of people makes the difference. It turns Trump’s language (as well as the language of Trump haters) into a wide spread epidemy.
I think that Carroll’s tragicomedy (or even tragedy?) The Hunting of the Snark is very much about what we are experiencing in these days: Legimate dispute (Snark) is turning more and more into toxic eristic (Boojum). And beware if it bites you, it’s contagious! Our pursuit of happiness can take many paths, therefore conflicts are unaviodable parts of our journey. But beware of the day, if your Snark be a Boojum! For then you will softly and suddenly vanish away, and never be met with again.
By the way: As for an on-line Snark, Morris’ article links to the Poetry Foundation. They do a good job, but Ebooks Adelaide offers a better on-line rendering of the poem. My version is based on an earlier Ebooks Adelaide version.
What I tell you three times is true!
- Search “What I tell you three times is true” in Google and in Baidu.
- Search “我告诉你三次是真的” in Google and in Baidu.
https://ashortspell.com/2017/12/14/the-hunting-of-the-snark | lewis-carroll-in-nspel-including-the-original-illustrations-by-henry-holiday/
“Jst ɖ ples fr a Snarc!” ɖ Belmn craid,
Az h landd hiz cru wɖ cer,
S’portñ ć man on ɖ top v ɖ tîd
Bî a fngr intwînd in hiz her.
“Jst ɖ ples fr a Snarc! I hv sd it twîs.
Ɖt alon śd incurij ɖ cru.
Jst ɖ ples fr a Snarc! I hv sd it ʈrîs.
Ẃt I tel y ʈri tîmz z tru.”
Lewis Carroll’s The Hunting of the Snark (1876) has been published “with nine illustrations by Henry Holiday”. But there are ten illustrations. One possible explanation: The Ocean-Chart (aka the Bellman’s map) has been made neither by Henry Holiday nor by Joseph Swain, but by a typesetter.
In the more recent British history, the map has been used by Britain’s contemporary Bellmen before 2016-06-23 to present their understanding of the impact of the Brexit to the rest of the crew. Admittedly, by now the majority of Britains understand the trouble they put themselves into. But as pride and face-saving of course is much more important than something profane like a healthy economy and rational thinking, that map won’t be updated.
The Beaver’s Lesson | The Bard
2017-09-16, updated: 2023-11-16